With the results Sunday, the final four preliminary round games of the IIHF 2013 World Junior Championship on Monday all have an impact on what the medal-round field will look like.
Victories by Canada and Finland in the early games Sunday, coupled with later wins by the Czech Republic and Slovakia, have crystallized the qualification picture heading into the New Year's Eve games in Ufa, Russia.
In Group B, Canada held off the United States in a much-anticipated showdown and Slovakia outlasted upset-minded Germany, winning 2-1 in OT.
In Group A, Finland erased two two-goal deficits against Switzerland to claim a 5-4 victory in a shootout in the early game. In the nightcap, the Czechs defeated Latvia to severely jumble the group's qualification picture.
Canada, using the heroics of goalie Malcolm Subban to claim a 2-1 win Sunday, are in the proverbial driver's seat in Group B. The Canadians, the only team left in the tournament with a perfect record (3-0-0-0 for nine points) have a one-point lead on host Russia. The two super powers meet Monday (9 a.m. ET, NHLN-US) and the winner takes the group and earns a quarterfinal bye. The loser finishes second and must play in the cross-over game against the third-place finisher from Group A.
The third-place finisher in Group B is also up in the air.
The loss by the Americans and Slovakia's OT win have left both the teams sitting on three points from three games. Now, they face off Monday (5 a.m. ET, NHL.com, NHLN-US) and the math is simple. The winner goes to the medal round against the second-place finisher from Group A. The loser falls to the relegation round with Germany, which did not win a game in the preliminary round.
Things are a bit more complicated in Group A.
Defending champion Sweden, which was idle Sunday, tops the group with eight points and is all but assured a place in the medal round. The Swedes finish round-robin play Monday with a game against the rival Finns, who have five points after their shootout victory against Switzerland on Sunday.
But, Switzerland also have five points and plays a Czech team with six points on Monday. That means, depending on results, a number of tie-breakers could come into effect to determine who the three seeds will be and in what order they will finish.
If Sweden wins Monday, they are assured the top seed and a quarterfinal-round bye. The Swedes also takes the top seed with a OT loss, reaching nine points and holding the tie-breaker (head-to-head) against the Czechs
After that, it gets far more tricky.
If Sweden loses to Finland in regulation, a number of scenarios could develop. Finland would win the group -- barring a Czech Republic regulation victory against Switzerland -- and the Swedes could fall all the way to third-place.
Both the Czech Republic and Switzerland can be in the mix, depending on the outcome of their game. The Czechs can finish with anywhere from nine points to six points. The Swiss, meanwhile will finish with five to eight points.
In any tie-breaking procedure between two teams, head-to-head result will be the determining factor.
Because the three-point system used by the IIHF In the World Junior Championship does not allow a game to end in a tie, the following tie-breaking procedure is applicable when three or more teams are tied in points in the standings.
If more than two teams are tied, the tied teams are placed into a sub group and the following criteria are applied:
Step 1: Points awarded in the direct games amongst the tied teams from which the teams are then ranked accordingly.
Step 2: Should three or more teams still remain tied in points then the better goal difference in the direct games amongst the tied teams will be decisive.
Step 3: Should three or more teams still remain tied in points and goal difference then the highest number of goals scored by these teams in their direct games will be decisive
Additional tie-breakers would come into play if none of the first three criteria determine a winner.
The only certainty in Group A is that winless Latvia is heading to the relegation round.
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